Fair and balanced news

NewsMusing on what passes for news these days, I was taken by this story: The distorting reality of ‘false balance’ in the media. It’s saying, essentially, that if you have two people on the news debating whether the Earth is round or flat, you unnecessarily elevate the flat earth argument to be equivalent.

I haven’t written much about either the awful shootdown of Malaysian flight or the Israel-Gaza war, other than I found it depressing as all get out. (What does “depressing as all get out” mean? In this case, I want to get out from all this sadness.)

There is a certain arc to stories of tragedies on television: 1) The bare facts – airliner goes down, 295 aboard, likely no survivors. Wait, it was 298 people – those first stories understandably never get it quite right. 2) The speculation, official and otherwise, about caused the tragedy. 3) The narrative of the actual people who died, which is the worst for me to watch. This catastrophe was particularly painful for the Dutch, who lost the majority of the victims. Awful for the HIV/AIDS community, which lost some prominent scientists and activists. Add to this the treatment of the bodies and the crime scene in Ukraine and [throws up both his hands]….

The story behind the story in Israel/Gaza recently has been NBC pulling veteran reporter Ayman Mohyeldin after he witnessed Israeli killing of children in Gaza, also noted here. Maybe the coverage wasn’t McNewsy enough.

Once upon a time, in the Mesozoic era of Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley, it seemed that facts were, you know, facts. Now “reportage” seems to have an inordinate amount of opinion. One of the things I’ve only obliquely heard was this “blame Obama” mantra regarding the shootdown of the Malaysian flight, which somehow almost always leads to the deification of Ronald Reagan even though Reagan did little after a Korean flight was shot down in 1983.

Now, particularly with user-created content, it appears (SHOCKING!) that sometimes people LIE in order to drive their political agenda, falsifying reports. After all, almost everyone has a camera these days. Amnesty International has launched a video verification tool and website, which sounds really useful for them..

If journalism is the pursuit of truth – OK, my working theory – Here’s something I DON’T understand: the European Union Court of Justice’s “right to be forgotten” ruling. The unintended consequence is that it can become a disinformation tool. Fortunately, those whose articles are being delisted, many of which are journalistic institutions, aren’t going to simply lay there and allow some third party to selectively edit their publications.

“The Bolton News (UK) just received notification from Google that one of its stories was due to be vanished from Google’s search engine. Needless to say, this request has produced another story highlighting the original story the filer(s) wanted delisted.” Brilliant response, I say.

Finally, sometimes when you do write a piece accept praise for something great in your story, even if you didn’t mean it. This HAS even happened to me, in a blog post or two.
I was sad that actor James Garner has died. I watched him religiously in the TV shows Maverick, in which he played a gambler, and The Rockford Files, as an unconventional L.A. private eye. But I also saw him in 8 Simple Rules and First Monday, the TV movie My Name Is Bill W., the films Victor/Victoria, Murphy’s Romance, Maverick, and Space Cowboys, and probably others. He had a relaxed genius as an actor. Loved those Polaroid ads with Mariette Hartley. Oh, and apparently Rockford anticipated our current police state way back in 1978.

7 thoughts on “Fair and balanced news”

  1. Holy cow, I totally agree with you on the creep of opinion into actual news. It’s one reason I just can’t watch it anymore.

    Tell me what the president did or said, not unknowable reasons why he said or did it. “The president gave an address on HIV at the White House this evening” is news. “The president gave an address on HIV at the White House because he is trying to appeal to the medical community/ provide distraction from the latest scandal/ is secretly having an affair with Sylvia Burwell” is not news.

    Tell me “A plane crashed but the cause of the crash is currently unknown.” Don’t tell me “a plane crashed and we’re going to guess why it crashed, including mechanical failure/ terrorism/ aliens/ Kim Kardashian’s latest hairdo”; it’s not news.


  2. The narratives always hit hardest for me, too. The whole AIDS researcher thing…they were on their way to a conference. I am a researcher of a very different (much less important work) sort, and I can imagine the discombobulation followed by sadness and shock of arriving at a conference and finding that many of the papers are cancelled because the presenters died suddenly in a plane crash (or shooting-down, whatever).

    On the one hand, I KNOW the news outlets are trying to manipulate emotions with that coverage and I resent that. On the other hand….these were people who lived, felt dawn, saw sunset’s glow, loved and were loved, and it somehow seems a bit cold to allow them to be reduced to pawns in the game, not to stop and remember.


  3. “News” media has been skewing the facts to play to emotions for years. But it’s gotten especially bad lately….on both sides of the political aisle. Don’t know why they can’t just report the facts. I’ve switched to Headline News with Robin Meade. Overall, less opinionated commentary.


  4. ?? When was TV “news” ever devoid of opinion, of manipulative slanting? It looks to me that more people are becoming aware of bias for the first time. Perhaps the slanting has become more obvious in the last few years.


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